Friday, May 30, 2014

Eating prunes can help weight loss



Research by the University of Liverpool has found that eating prunes as part of a weight control diet can improve weight loss.

Consumption of dried fruit is not readily recommended during weight loss despite evidence it enhances feelings of fullness.

However, a study by the University's Institute of Psychology, Health and Society of 100 overweight and obese low fibre consumers tested whether eating prunes as part of a weight loss diet helped or hindered weight control over a 12-week period.

It also examined if low fibre consumers could tolerate eating substantial numbers of prunes in their diet, and if eating prunes had a beneficial effect on appetite.

To assess the effects of prunes on weight and appetite, participants in the study were divided into two groups – those who ate prunes every day (140g a day for women and 171g a day for men) and those who were given advice on healthy snacks over the period of active weight loss.

The researchers found that members of the group which ate prunes as part of a healthy life-style diet lost 2kg in weight and shed 2.5cm off their waists. However, the people in the group which was given advice on healthy snacks lost only 1.5kg in weight and 1.7cm from their waists.

The study also found that the prune eaters experienced greater weight loss during the last four weeks of the study. After week eight, participants showed increased feelings of fullness in the prune group. Moreover, despite the high daily doses, prunes were well tolerated.

Liverpool psychologist, Dr Jo Harrold who led the research, said: "These are the first data to demonstrate both weight loss and no negative side effects when consuming prunes as part of a weight management diet. Indeed in the long term they may be beneficial to dieters by tackling hunger and satisfying appetite; a major challenge when you are trying to maintain weight loss."

Professor Jason Halford, Professor of Experimental Psychology and Director of the University's Human Ingestive Behaviour Laboratory, added: "Maintaining a healthy diet is challenging. Along with fresh fruit and vegetables, dried fruit can provide a useful and convenient addition to the diet, especially as controlling appetite during dieting can be tough."

Study explains how green tea reduces pancreatic cancer risk


Green tea and its extracts have been widely touted as potential treatments for cancer, as well as several other diseases. But scientists have struggled to explain how the green tea and its extracts may work to reduce the risk of cancer or to slow the growth of cancer cells.

A study recently published May 2014 online by the journal, Metabolomics, offers an explanation that researchers say could open a new area of cancer-fighting research. The study reports that EGCG, the active biologic constituent in green tea, changed the metabolism of pancreatic cancer cells by suppressing the expression of an enzyme associated with cancer, LDHA.

The researchers also found an enzyme inhibitor, oxamate, which is known to reduce LDHA activity, operated in the same manner: It also disrupted the pancreatic cancer cells metabolic system.

"Scientists had believed they needed a molecular mechanism to treat cancer, but this study shows that they can change the metabolic system and have an impact on cancer," said Wai-Nang Lee, MD, corresponding author of the study and a Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) lead researcher. "By explaining how green tea's active component could prevent cancer, this study will open the door to a whole new area of cancer research and help us understand how other foods can prevent cancer or slow the growth of cancerous cells."

Using sophisticated metabolic profiling methods, the researchers found EGCG disrupted the balance of "flux" throughout the cellular metabolic network. Flux is the rate of turnover of molecules through a metabolic pathway. The researchers found the EGCG disrupted this balance in the same manner that oxamate, a known LDHA inhibitor, did.

Based on this finding, they concluded that both EGCG and oxamate reduced the risk of cancer by suppressing the activity of LDHA, a critical enzyme in cancer metabolism, thereby disrupting the balance in the cancer cells metabolic functions.

"This is an entirely new way of looking at metabolism," said Dr. Lee. "It is no longer a case of glucose goes in and energy comes out. Now we understand how cancer cell metabolism can be disrupted, and we can examine how we can use this knowledge to try to alter the course of cancer or prevent cancer."

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Circumcision linked to reduced risk of prostate cancer, HIV


Circumcision is performed for various reasons, including those that are based on religion, aesthetics, or health. New research indicates that the procedure may help prevent prostate cancer in some men. The findings, which are published in BJU International, add to a growing list of advantages to circumcision.

Besides advanced age, African ancestry, and family history of prostate cancer, no other risk factors for prostate cancer have been definitively established. This has fuelled the search for modifiable risk factors. Marie-√Člise Parent, PhD and Andrea Spence, PhD, of the University of Quebec's INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier, led a team that designed an observational study to investigate the possible association between circumcision and prostate cancer risk. Their study, called PROtEuS (Prostate Cancer and Environment Study), included 1590 prostate cancer patients diagnosed in a Montr√©al hospital between 2005 and 2009, as well as 1618 healthy control individuals. In-person interviews were conducted to gather information on sociodemographic, lifestyle, and environmental factors.

Circumcised men had a slightly lower risk, albeit not statistically significant, of developing prostate cancer than uncircumcised men. Circumcision was found to be protective in men circumcised when they were older than 35 years, with the procedure decreasing their risk by 45%. A weaker protective effect was seen among men circumcised within 1 year of birth, with the procedure decreasing their risk by 14%. The strongest protective effect of circumcision was recorded in Black men, who had a 60% reduced risk if they were circumcised, but no association was found with other ancestral groups. "This is a particularly interesting finding, as Black men have the highest rates of prostate cancer in the world and this has never been explained," said Dr. Parent. "This novel finding warrants further examination in future studies that have a larger number of Black participants."

Dr. Parent noted that circumcision may reduce the risk of contracting and maintaining a sexually transmitted infection, which has been postulated to be a risk factor for prostate cancer. This may explain the reduced risk of prostate cancer observed in males circumcised at a younger age prior to any potential exposure to infection. "We do not know why a protective effect was observed for men circumcised after the age of 35. These men may have had a pathologic condition of the foreskin that lead to them being circumcised," she said.

Another study related to circumcision published in BJU International addresses the issue of HIV infection and circumcision. Previous studies have found that circumcision reduces a man's risk of becoming infected with HIV by 50% to 60%, and the procedure has the potential to reduce the HIV epidemic in areas of Eastern and Southern Africa where circumcision is uncommon and the epidemic most severe. As circumcision is promoted in these regions, HIV-positive men will likely seek the procedure either because they do not know their HIV status or to avoid being stigmatized. If post-surgical complications arise and intercourse is resumed before wound healing is complete, there may be an increased risk of HIV transmission to female partners. In this latest study, investigators in Uganda and the United States found that HIV infection does not significantly impair healing of circumcision wounds; therefore, HIV-positive men should not be denied the service if they request it.

Grape-enriched diet supports eye health


New research presented this week at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology conference in Orlando, Florida suggests that regular grape consumption may play a role in eye health by protecting the retina from deterioration. Specifically, a grape-enriched diet resulted in a protective effect on retinal structure and function.

The retina is the part of the eye that contains the cells that respond to light, known as photoreceptors. There are two types of photoreceptors: rods and cones. Retinal degenerative diseases affect over 5 million people in the U.S., and can cause blindness due to photoreceptor cell death.

The study was conducted by a research team at the University of Miami, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and investigated whether a diet supplemented with grapes could protect the photoreceptors in mice with retinal degeneration. Mice were either fed a grape-supplemented diet corresponding to 3 servings of grapes per day for humans or one of two control diets.

The results showed that retinal function was significantly protected in the mice consuming the grape-enriched diet. The grape-consuming group had three-fold higher rod and cone photoreceptor responses compared with those on the control diets. They also exhibited thicker retinas. Grape consumption also protected retinal function in an oxidative stress model of macular degeneration. Further analysis revealed that the grape diet resulted in lower levels of inflammatory proteins and higher amounts of protective proteins in the retinas.

"The grape-enriched diet provided substantial protection of retinal function which is very exciting," said Dr. Abigail Hackam, lead investigator of the study. "And it appears that grapes may work in multiple ways to promote eye health from signaling changes at the cellular level to directly countering oxidative stress."



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Cynical? You may be hurting your brain health



People with high levels of cynical distrust may be more likely to develop dementia, according to a study published in the May 28, 2014, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Cynical distrust, which is defined as the belief that others are mainly motivated by selfish concerns, has been associated with other health problems, such as heart disease. This is the first study to look at the relationship between cynicism and dementia.

"These results add to the evidence that people's view on life and personality may have an impact on their health," said study author Anna-Maija Tolppanen, PhD, of the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio. "Understanding how a personality trait like cynicism affects risk for dementia might provide us with important insights on how to reduce risks for dementia."

For the study, 1,449 people with an average age of 71 were given tests for dementia and a questionnaire to measure their level of cynicism. The questionnaire has been shown to be reliable, and people's scores tend to remain stable over periods of several years. People are asked how much they agree with statements such as "I think most people would lie to get ahead," "It is safer to trust nobody" and "Most people will use somewhat unfair reasons to gain profit or an advantage rather than lose it." Based on their scores, participants were grouped in low, moderate and high levels of cynical distrust.

A total of 622 people completed two tests for dementia, with the last one an average of eight years after the study started. During that time, 46 people were diagnosed with dementia. Once researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect dementia risk, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking, people with high levels of cynical distrust were three times more likely to develop dementia than people with low levels of cynicism. Of the 164 people with high levels of cynicism, 14 people developed dementia, compared to nine of the 212 people with low levels of cynicism.

The study also looked at whether people with high levels of cynicism were more likely to die sooner than people with low levels of cynicism. A total of 1,146 people were included in this part of the analysis, and 361 people died during the average of 10 years of follow-up. High cynicism was initially associated with earlier death, but after researchers accounted for factors such as socioeconomic status, behaviors such as smoking and health status, there was no longer any link between cynicism and earlier death.


Toxins in the environment might make you older than your years


Why are some 75-year-olds downright spry while others can barely get around? Part of the explanation, say researchers writing in the Cell Press journal Trends in Molecular Medicine on May 28, is differences from one person to the next in exposure to harmful substances in the environment, chemicals such as benzene, cigarette smoke, and even stress.

While the birth date on your driver's license can tell you your chronological age, that might mean little in terms of the biological age of your body and cells. The researchers say that what we need now is a better understanding of the chemicals involved in aging and biomarkers to measure their effects.

"The rate of physiologic, or molecular, aging differs between individuals in part because of exposure to 'gerontogens', i.e., environmental factors that affect aging," said Norman Sharpless from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. "We believe just as an understanding of carcinogens has informed cancer biology, so will an understanding of gerontogens benefit the study of aging. By identifying and avoiding gerontogens, we will be able to influence aging and life expectancy at a public health level."

In the future, blood tests evaluating biomarkers of molecular age might be used to understand differences amongst individuals in aging rates. Those tests might measure key pathways involved in the process of cellular senescence or chemical modifications to DNA. In fact, Sharpless said in the interest of full disclosure that he has founded a company to commercialize molecular tests of aging.

From a public health perspective, cigarette smoke is likely the most important gerontogen, Sharpless said. Cigarettes are linked with cancers but also with atherosclerosis, pulmonary fibrosis, and other diseases associated with age. UV radiation from the sun makes us older too, and Sharpless and his colleagues recently showed that chemotherapy treatment is also a strong gerontogen. With the aid of a mouse model that they developed, his team is prepared to study these gerontogens and others in much greater detail.

The researchers call for a concerted research effort to understand the clinical uses for molecular tests of aging as well as the epidemiology of accelerated aging.

"We believe the comparison of molecular markers of aging to clinical outcomes should begin in earnest," Sharpless said. For example, he asked, can biomarkers to aging predict toxicity from surgery or chemotherapy in patients in whom chronological age is already a known risk factor?
Sharpless does caution against making tests of molecular age available to consumers and patients directly. "The potential for miscommunication and other harm seems real," he said.

Negative social interactions increase hypertension risk in older adults, especially women


New research from Carnegie Mellon University's Rodlescia Sneed and Sheldon Cohen shows that unpleasant or demanding interpersonal encounters increase hypertension risk among older adults.

Published in the American Psychological Association's journal Health Psychology, the study provides some of the first concrete evidence that negative social interactions not only influence psychological well-being but also physical health – in this case, blood pressure levels. Hypertension affects an estimated 65 million Americans and is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.

"This demonstrates how important social networks are as we age - constructing strong, positive relationships are beneficial to prolonged health," said Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty University Professor of Psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

For the study, Sneed and Cohen used data from the Health and Retirement Study, a multi-year survey of 1,502 healthy adults aged 50 and over. In 2006, the frequency of negative interactions – exchanges or behaviors that involved excessive demands, criticism, disappointment or other unpleasantness – with their partners, children, other family members and friends was assessed by questionnaire. Blood pressure was measured at this assessment as well as four years later.

The results show that each increase in the total average negative social interaction score was associated with a 38 percent increased chance of developing hypertension over the four-year period. Younger older adults – those aged 51-64 – were also more affected than those 65 or older.

The researchers also observed sex differences in their findings. While negative interactions predicted hypertension risk among women, these interactions were not related to hypertension risk among men.

"There is a body of evidence in social psychology research suggesting that women care more about and pay more attention to the quality of their relationships," said Sneed, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology. "Our findings suggest that women are particularly sensitive to negative interactions, which is consistent with this previous work."

The researchers also found that the type of relationship matters. Negative interactions between friends and family led to an increase in hypertension risk while poor encounters with partners and children did not make a difference.

"Interpersonal conflicts are the most commonly reported stressor, so understanding their impact on health and well-being is particularly important," said Sneed.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Study proves physical activity helps maintain mobility in older adults




It's something we've all heard for years: Exercise can help keep older adults healthy. But now a study, the first of its kind to look at frail, older adults, proves that physical activity can help these people maintain their mobility and dodge physical disability.

A new University of Florida study shows daily moderate physical activity may mean the difference between seniors being able to keep up everyday activities or becoming housebound. In fact, moderate physical activity helped aging adults maintain their ability to walk at a rate 18 percent higher than older adults who did not exercise. "The very purpose of the study is to provide definitive evidence that physical activity can truly improve the independence of older adults," said principal investigator Marco Pahor, Ph.D., director of the UF's Institute on Aging.

What's more, moderate physical activity not only helped older adults maintain mobility but also helped prevent the occurrence of long-term mobility loss. Co-principal investigator Jack Guralnik, Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said there was a 28 percent reduction in people permanently losing the ability to walk easily.

"The fact that we had an even bigger impact on persistent disability is very good," said Guralnik, who also holds a faculty position at UF. "It implies that a greater percentage of the adults who had physical activity intervention recovered when they did develop mobility disability."

The results will be published in the May 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers showed that prescribed daily physical activity can prevent older adults' loss of mobility, defined in the study as the ability to walk 400 meters, or about a quarter of a mile. Although 400 meters might sound like an arbitrary number, it's an important figure for older adults, researchers said.

"Four hundred meters is once around the track, or from the parking lot to the store, or two or three blocks around your neighborhood," Guralnik said. "It's an important distance in maintaining an independent life."

Called the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders, or LIFE, study, the study took place across eight field centers. There were two Florida field center recruitment sites at the University of Florida and Jacksonville Brooks Rehabilitation as well as field centers at Northwestern University, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, the University of Pittsburgh, Stanford University, Tufts University, Wake Forest School of Medicine and Yale University.

The researchers recruited 1,635 sedentary men and women ages 70 to 89 for the study. The participants could walk a quarter mile within 15 minutes but were at risk of losing that ability. Low physical performance can be a predictor of early death and higher hospitalization and institutionalization rates, and patients with low physical performance are not often recruited to large studies, Pahor said.

"These are people who are patients we see every day. This is why this study is so important: It includes a population that is typically understudied," Pahor said.

The participants were randomly separated into two groups and followed for an average of 2.6 years. The first group of 818 walked 150 minutes per week and did strength, flexibility and balance training. They were monitored by two visits to field centers per week. The second group of 817 attended health education classes and performed stretching exercises. This phase of the study occurred between February 2010 and December 2013.

Staff members assessed study participants every six months, checking their ability to walk, their body weight, blood pressure and pulse rate, among other measurements. The staff was not told which participants were assigned to physical activity or to the education classes.

The study did turn up one unanticipated result: The number of people reporting hospitalizations in the physical activity group was slightly higher than in the education group, though the number was not statistically significant. The researchers think this is in part because the physical activity group had more frequent contact with research staff, possibly resulting in a higher reporting of hospitalizations. The physical activity could also have triggered underlying heart trouble and other health problems. Researchers plan to study this occurrence more closely, Pahor said.

"It's quite a vulnerable and high-risk population," Pahor said. "Both age and poor health were factors. We selected people who had low physical performance, which is a strong predictor for future morbidity, hospitalization, institutionalization and mortality."

Wendy Kohrt, Ph.D., professor of medicine in the division of geriatric medicine at the University of Colorado, helped review the scientific merit of the study before the launch of the main LIFE trial. She said the information produced by this study fills gaps in researchers' knowledge of the types of people enrolled in the study.

"As an exercise scientist, I believe this type of research is absolutely critical to establish scientific evidence on which to make recommendations for how lifestyle can beneficially influence health status," Kohrt said. "There is a general belief among the public and the scientific and medical communities that we know exercise is good for you, so why do we need to do more research in this area? However, we still do not know whether certain types or doses of exercise are better than others, particularly for specific health conditions or diseases. The LIFE trial demonstrated that a modest increase in physical activity has the potential to help older adults maintain functional independence."

Pahor and Guralnik said there is still a vast amount of data to unpack from the study, including looking at the effects of physical activity on the participants' emotional well-being. The research team also plans to determine how physical activity impacted the participants' physiological, social and biological factors.

What Role Does MSG Play in Obesity and Fatty Liver Disease?


The commonly used food additive monosodium glutamate (MSG) has been linked to obesity and disorders associated with the metabolic syndrome including progressive liver disease. A new study that identifies MSG as a critical factor in the initiation of obesity and shows that a restrictive diet cannot counteract this effect but can slow the progression of related liver disease is published in Journal of Medicinal Food, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The paper is available on the Journal of Medicinal Food website.

Makoto Fujimoto and a team of international researchers from Japan, the U.S., and Italy monitored the weight gain and development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and its progression to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis in MSG-treated mice fed either a calorie-restricted or regular diet. They report their findings in the article "A Dietary Restriction Influences the Progression But Not the Initiation of MSG-Induced Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis."

"Although MSG has been deemed a safe food additive, its dosage, interaction with other drugs, effects on vulnerable populations, and effects on chronic inflammatory diseases and neurological diseases are unknown," says Co-Editor-in-Chief Sampath Parthasarathy, MBA, PhD, Florida Hospital Chair in Cardiovascular Sciences, University of Central Florida, Orlando, in the Editorial "How Safe is Monosodium Glutamate? Exploring the Link to Obesity, Metabolic Disorders, and Inflammatory Disease." The findings by Fujimoto et al. "may have far reaching implications, as childhood obesity is a major problem across the globe."

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Protecting Your Vision: Facts and Fiction From the FDA


 
It’s legal to market decorative contact lenses as over-the-counter products—and they’re safe to wear, even if an eye doctor hasn’t examined them on you first.
Fiction. Decorative contact lenses are medical devices regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Places that advertise them as cosmetics or sell them without a prescription are breaking the law. Moreover, an eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist) must examine each eye to properly fit the lenses and evaluate how your eye responds to contact lens wear. A poor fit can cause serious eye damage.

Laser pointers and toys containing lasers can cause permanent eye damage.
Fact. According to Dan Hewett, health promotion officer at FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, "A beam shone directly into a person's eye can injure it in an instant, especially if the laser is a powerful one." In fact, when operated unsafely, or without certain controls, the highly-concentrated light from lasers—even those in toys—can be dangerous, causing serious eye injuries and even blindness. And not just to the person using a laser, but to anyone within range of the laser beam.

Eating lots of carrots is good for your vision.
Fact. Carrots are a good food for healthy eyesight because they contain carotenoids, which are precursors of vitamin A, a nutrient important to your eyes. However, a well-balanced diet can contain lots of foods that offer similar benefits, such as other darkly colored fruits and vegetables like peas and broccoli. Eating a well-balanced diet also helps you maintain a healthy weight, which makes you less likely to develop obesity-related diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, the leading cause of blindness in adults.

Sitting too close to movie, television, and computer screens will damage your eyes.
Fiction. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), watching televisions, including flat screens, can’t cause your eyes any physical harm. The same is true for using the computer too much or watching 3-D movies. AAO says your eyes may feel more tired if you sit too close to the TV or spend a lot of time working at the computer, but you can fix that by giving your eyes a rest.


It's okay to use an over-the-counter eye reliever every day.
Fiction. According to FDA‘s Wiley Chambers, M.D., doctors don’t recommend long term use of redness-alleviating drops. Although initially they help to constrict the blood vessels in the eyes (getting the so-called “red” out), continued use leads to a rebound effect. After continued use, the drops can become the reason that your eyes are red. It is best to use them just for a day or two, Chambers says.

Smoking increases your risk of developing macular degeneration.
Fact. Smoking is a major risk factor for developing macular degeneration, a disease that gradually destroys sharp, central vision. Other risk factors include genetics, diet, exposure to bright sunlight, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension (high blood pressure).

A full serving of protein at each meal needed for maximum muscle health




Most Americans eat a diet that consists of little to no protein for breakfast, a bit of protein at lunch and an overabundance of protein at dinner. As long as they get their recommended dietary allowance of about 60 grams, it's all good, right?

Not according to new research from a team of scientists led by muscle metabolism expert Doug Paddon-Jones of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. This research shows that the typical cereal or carbohydrate-dominated breakfast, a sandwich or salad at lunch and overly large serving of meat/protein for dinner may not provide the best metabolic environment to promote healthy aging and maintenance of muscle size and strength.

The new study, now online in press in the Journal of Nutrition, shows that the potential for muscle growth is less than optimal when protein consumption is skewed toward the evening meal instead of being evenly distributed throughout the day.

Age-related conditions such as osteoporosis (bone weakening) and sarcopenia (muscle wasting) do not develop all of a sudden. Rather they are insidious processes precipitated by suboptimal lifestyle practices, such as diet and exercise, in early middle age, the study states.

The study's results were obtained by measuring muscle protein synthesis rates in healthy adults who consumed two similar diets that differed in protein distribution throughout the day. One of the diets contained 30 grams of protein at each meal, while the other contained 10 grams at breakfast, 15 grams at lunch and 65 grams at dinner. Lean beef was the primary nutrient-dense source of protein for each daily menu. Using blood samples and thigh muscle biopsies, the researchers then determined the subjects' muscle protein synthesis rates over a 24-hour period.

The UTMB researchers provided volunteers with a generous daily dose of 90 grams of protein — consistent with the average amount currently consumed by healthy adults in the United States. While very active individuals may benefit from a slightly higher protein intake, the team's previous research suggests that, for the majority of adults, additional protein will likely have a diminishing positive effect on muscle metabolism, while any less may fail to provide optimal muscle metabolism support.

When study volunteers consumed the evenly distributed protein meals, their 24-hour muscle protein synthesis was 25 percent greater than subjects who ate according to the skewed protein distribution pattern. This result was not altered by several days of habituation to either protein distribution pattern.

The results of the study, Paddon-Jones points out, seem to show that a more effective pattern of protein consumption is likely to differ dramatically from many Americans' daily eating habits.

"Usually, we eat very little protein at breakfast, a bit more at lunch and then consume a large amount at night. When was the last time you had just 4 ounces of anything during dinner at a restaurant?" Paddon-Jones said. "So we're not taking enough protein on board for efficient muscle building and repair during the day, and at night we're often taking in more than we can use. We run the risk of having this excess oxidized and ending up as glucose or fat."

A more efficient eating strategy for making muscle and controlling total caloric intake would be to shift some of the extra protein consumed at dinner to lunch and breakfast.

"You don't have to eat massive amounts of protein to maximize muscle synthesis, you just have to be a little more thoughtful with how you apportion it," Paddon-Jones said. "For breakfast consider replacing some carbohydrate, particularly the simple sugars, with high-quality protein. Throw in an egg, a glass of milk, yogurt or add a handful of nuts to get closer to 30 grams of protein, do something similar to get to 30 for lunch, and then moderate the amount of protein for dinner. Do this, and over the course of the day you will likely spend much more time synthesizing muscle protein."


Why you need olive oil on your salad



A diet that combines unsaturated fats with nitrite-rich vegetables, such as olive oil and lettuce, can protect you from hypertension, suggests a new study led by King's College London. The findings, published in the journal PNAS, help to explain why some previous studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet can reduce blood pressure.

The Mediterranean diet typically includes unsaturated fats found in olive oil, nuts and avocados, along with vegetables like spinach, celery and carrots that are rich in nitrites and nitrates.

When these two food groups are combined, the reaction of unsaturated fatty acids with nitrogen compounds in the vegetables results in the formation of nitro fatty acids.

The study, supported by the British Heart Foundation, used mice to investigate the process by which these nitro fatty acids lower blood pressure, looking at whether they inhibited an enzyme known as soluble Epoxide Hydrolase which regulates blood pressure.

Mice genetically engineered to be resistant to this inhibitory process were found to maintain their high blood pressure despite being fed the type of nitro fatty acids that normally form when a Mediterranean diet is consumed. However, nitro fatty acids were found to lower the blood pressure of normal mice following the same diets.

Thus, the study concludes that the protective effect of the Mediterranean diet, combining unsaturated fats and vegetables abundant in nitrite and nitrate, comes at least in part from the nitro fatty acids generated which inhibit soluble Epoxide Hydrolase to lower blood pressure.

Professor Philip Eaton, Professor of Cardiovascular Biochemistry at King's College London, said: "The findings of our study help to explain why previous research has shown that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts can reduce the incidence of cardiovascular problems like stroke, heart failure and heart attacks."

Friday, May 23, 2014

Low-carb vegan diet may reduce heart disease risk and weight



Researchers at St. Michael's Hospital have shown for the first time that, in addition to weight loss, a specific low-carbohydrate diet may also reduce the risk of heart disease by 10 per cent over 10 years.

The diet, often called Eco-Atkins, is a low-carbohydrate vegan diet. Many low-carbohydrate diets have been proven to improve weight loss but most emphasize eating animal proteins and fats, which may raise cholesterol. Diets that are high in vegetable proteins and oils may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering "bad cholesterol."

"We killed two birds with one stone – or, rather, with one diet," explained lead author Dr. David Jenkins, who is director of the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Modification Centre of St. Michael's Hospital and a Nutritional Sciences professor at the University of Toronto. "We designed a diet that combined both vegan and low-carb elements to get the weight loss and cholesterol-lowering benefits of both."

The findings, which were published in British Medical Journal Open, compared Eco-Atkins to a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet. The Eco-Atkins diet reduced cholesterol by 10 per cent while also helping participants lose an average of four more pounds than the high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet over six months.

"We could expect similar results in the real world because study participants selected their own diets and were able to adjust to their needs and preferences," said Dr. Jenkins, who is a vegan.

Participants were given menu plans that outlined food items and amounts. Rather than requiring fixed meals, the menus served as a reference guide and participants were given a list of suitable food alternatives. With an exchange list of interchangeable food items, participants were better able to adapt the diet to their personal tastes – which helped to encourage adherence to the diet.

Twenty-three obese men and women completed the six-month diet. Participants were encouraged to eat only 60 per cent of their estimated caloric requirements – the amount of calories that should be consumed daily to maintain their current weight.

Eco-Atkins participants aimed for a balance of 26 per cent of calories from carbohydrates, 31 per cent from proteins and 43 per cent from fat – coming primarily vegetable oils.

Carbohydrate sources included high-fibre foods such as oats and barley and low-starch vegetables such as okra and eggplant. Proteins came from gluten, soy, vegetables, nuts and cereals. Predominant fat sources for the Eco-Atkins diet were nuts, vegetable oils, soy products and avocado.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

/Longevity Gender, age and place of residence influence development of depressive symptoms among older people



Residents of the Italian island of Sardinia are known for their longevity. Now, a new study also shows that elderly Sardinians are less depressed and generally are in a better mental frame of mind than peers living elsewhere. The study, led by Maria Chiara Fastame and Maria Pietronilla Penna of the University of Cagliari in Italy and Paul Hitchcott from the Southampton Solent University in UK, is published in Springer’s journal Applied Research in Quality of Life.

Various tests to measure the mental state and capacity of elderly people were performed on 191 cognitively healthy native-born residents between the ages of 60 years and 99 years old. They were recruited from the rural areas of Lombardy in Northern Italy, from the Sardinian city of Sassari and the agro-pastoral villages of Bargagia and Ogliastra on the Mediterranean island. These areas were chosen because of the high prevalence of centenarians who live on the isle. Fastame and colleagues showed in a previous study that residents from Ogliastra enjoy greater levels of psychological well-being than those of Lombardy. Her team now wanted to find out if depression among the elderly was influenced by factors such as gender, marital status, age, lifestyle choices, levels of brain functioning and the environment.

Findings from the latest study highlight the effect that one’s region of residence has on psychological well-being. It was noted that the Sardinian way of life trumps all else, with older Sardinians being less depressed and experiencing higher levels of personal satisfaction and coping strategies than is true for the norm. In contrast, the elderly from Northern Italy struggled with depression.

These findings are ascribed to the fact that elderly people from Sardinia, and especially those from Ogliastra, are physically active until late in life and feel more valued, respected and supported by younger generations. In turn, elderly Sardinians living in Sassari benefit from higher levels of wealth and physical health. They have mental health services nearby, and are involved in ongoing social, recreational and cultural activities.

More symptoms of depression were noted among women than men; and city dwellers reported more symptoms of depression than those from rural areas. Also, very old participants between 75 and 99 years old tended to be more depressed than those between 65 and 74 years old.

The researchers expressed worry about the marked signs of depression noted among residents of Northern Italy. They advise that psychology-based intervention programs be implemented to help strengthen the self-image and self-esteem of the elderly living in these areas, to ultimately improve the quality of their later life and to ward off feelings of depression.

“Positive ageing is more evident in Sardinia, especially in rural areas, where the maintenance of an adequate social status and physical activity help guarantee a positive level of mental health in later life,” conclude Fastame and her colleagues.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Vitamin E in Canola, Soybean and Corn Oil Hurts Lungs



    * The good news! Vitamin E in olive and sunflower oils improves lungs

A large new Northwestern Medicine® study upends our understanding of vitamin E and ties the increasing consumption of supposedly healthy vitamin E-rich oils -- canola, soybean and corn – to the rising incidence of lung inflammation and, possibly, asthma.

The new study shows drastically different health effects of vitamin E depending on its form. The form of Vitamin E called gamma-tocopherol in the ubiquitous soybean, corn and canola oils is associated with decreased lung function in humans, the study reports. The other form of Vitamin E, alpha-tocopherol, which is found in olive and sunflower oils, does the opposite. It associated with better lung function.

“Considering the rate of affected people we found in this study, there could be 4.5 million individuals in the U.S. with reduced lung function as a result of their high gamma-tocopherol consumption,” said senior author Joan Cook-Mills, an associate professor of medicine in allergy/immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

This is the first study to show gamma-tocopherol is associated with worse lung function.

Cook-Mills presented her research in May at the Oxidants and Antioxidants in Biology World Congress. It was also published in the journal Respiratory Research. 

Rates of asthma in the U.S. have been climbing in the last 40 years, coinciding with a switch in U.S. diets from lard and butter to soybean, canola and corn oils, which were thought to be healthier for the heart. Looking at other countries’ rates of asthma, Cook-Mills said those with significantly lower rates of asthma have diets high in olive and sunflower oils.

In the U.S., asthma prevalence (the percentage of people who have been diagnosed with asthma and still have asthma) was 8.4 percent in 2010, as reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the U.S., the average blood plasma level of gamma-tocopherol is four or more times higher than those of European and Scandinavian countries that consume sunflower and olive oil, Cook-Mills noted.

“People in countries that consume olive and sunflower oil have the lowest rate of asthma and those that consume soybean, corn and canola oil have the highest rate of asthma,” Cook-Mills said. “When people consume alpha-tocopherol, which is rich in olive oil and sunflower oil, their lung function is better.”  

The study examined 4,526 individuals from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study (CARDIA). Cook-Mills had done previous allergy research in mice showing alpha-tocopherol decreased lung inflammation, protecting healthy lung function and gamma-tocopherol increased lung inflammation and airway hyperresponsiveness, a characteristic of asthma. She hypothesized that they might have similar effects in humans.

Cook-Mills examined the CARDIA results for individuals’ lung function tests at four intervals from baseline to 20 years and the type of tocopherol levels in their blood plasma at three intervals from baseline to 15 years. She found that a high level of gamma-tocoperol, 10 micromolar in the blood plasma, was associated with a 10 to 17 percent reduction in lung function. Micromolar is a measure of the amount of gamma-tocopherol per liter volume of blood plasma.

“The blood plasma showed how much they had acquired in their tissues,” Cook-Mills said. “You get vitamin E from your diet or supplements.”

In 2012 research, she identified a mechanism for gamma-tocopherol increasing lung inflammation: protein kinase C-alpha, which binds both forms of vitamin E. Alpha-tocopherol inhibits the action of the protein and gamma-tocopherol increases the action of the protein.

“A 10 percent reduction in lung function is like an asthmatic condition,” Cook-Mills said. “People have more trouble breathing. They take in less air, and it’s harder to expel. Their lungs have reduced capacity.”

People with asthma already have lower lung function, so if they have high gamma-tocopherol levels, they would have even more difficulty breathing, Cook-Mills said.  The individuals in CARDIA with asthma and high gamma-tocopherol had the lowest lung function.

Not just for the heart, red wine shows promise as cavity fighter


For anyone searching for another reason to enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner, here's a good one: A new study has found that red wine, as well as grape seed extract, could potentially help prevent cavities. They say that their report, which appears in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, could lead to the development of natural products that ward off dental diseases with fewer side effects.

M. Victoria Moreno-Arribas and colleagues explain that dental diseases are extremely common throughout the world. Cavities, periodontal disease and tooth loss affect an estimated 60 to 90 percent of the global population. The problems start when certain bacteria in the mouth get together and form biofilms, which are communities of bacteria that are difficult to kill. They form plaque and produce acid, which starts damaging teeth. Brushing, fluoride in toothpaste and water and other methods can help get rid of bacterial plaques, but the effects are limited. In addition, currently used antimicrobial rinses can change the color of the gums and alter taste, so people are less likely to use them for as long as they should. Some research has suggested that polyphenols, grape seed extract and wine can slow bacterial growth, so Moreno-Arribas' team decided to test them under realistic conditions for the first time.

They grew cultures of bacteria responsible for dental diseases as a biofilm. They dipped the biofilms for a couple of minutes in different liquids, including red wine, red wine without the alcohol, red wine spiked with grape seed extract, and water and 12 percent ethanol for comparison. Red wine with or without alcohol and wine with grape seed extract were the most effective at getting rid of the bacteria.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Can Mobile Phones Cause Allergic Reactions?


Studies have identified mobile phones and related devices as sources of metal sensitization and potential causes of allergic contact dermatitis (ACD). Despite efforts to control allergen release in phones, many phones on the market release levels of metals, such as nickel and chromium, which are sufficient to induce ACD, according to an article in Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmonology, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers.
 
In the article “Mobile Phone Dermatitis in Children and Adults: A Review of the Literature,” a team of researchers led by Jacob Thyssen, MD, PhD, Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte (Hellerup, Denmark), Loma Linda University School of Medicine (Loma Linda, CA), and University of Arizona College of Medicine (Phoenix, AZ), review the current literature on mobile phone dermatitis in both children and adults. Nickel sensitization is common in children, resulting in ACD prevalence levels of up to 33%. This information is important for practitioners, particularly when evaluating patients with dermatitis of the face, neck, hands, breast, or anterior thighs—common places exposed to cell phones. The authors provide important diagnostic tips for practitioners and strategies to raise awareness of nickel- or chromium-induced mobile phone ACD.
“With the rising use of cell phones and other mobile devices, pediatricians can expect to see additional cases of ACD,” says Editor-in-Chief Mary Cataletto, MD, Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, State University of New York at Stony Brook (Stony Brook, NY) and practicing pediatric pulmonologist at Winthrop University Hospital. “Thyssen’s paper discusses diagnostic patch testing for common metal allergens and the value of spot testing of the patient’s phone in establishing a causal relationship.”

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sugar implicated in cardiovascular disease risk independent of weight gain





Researchers from New Zealand's University of Otago have uncovered evidence that sugar has a direct effect on risk factors for heart disease, and is likely to impact on blood pressure, independent of weight gain.

Research Fellow with Otago's Department of Human Nutrition Dr Lisa Te Morenga, Professor Jim Mann and colleagues have conducted a review and meta-analysis of all international studies that compared the effects of higher versus lower added sugar consumption on blood pressure and lipids (blood fats or cholesterol) – both of which are important cardiovascular risk-factors.

They located dietary intervention trials published in English-speaking journals between 1965 and 2013, comparing diets where the only intended differences were the amount of sugars and non-sugar carbohydrates consumed by the participants, and which measured the effects of these diets on lipids and blood pressure. They found 37 trials reporting effects on lipids and 12 reporting effects on blood pressure. The findings from the individual trials were then pooled to determine the overall effects from all the studies.

"Our analysis confirmed that sugars contribute to cardiovascular risk, independent of the effect of sugars on body weight," says Dr Te Morenga.

"Although the effects of sugars on blood pressure and lipids are relatively modest, our findings support public health recommendations to reduce added sugar in our diets as one of the measures which might be expected to reduce the global burden of cardiovascular diseases."

Dr Te Morenga says previous research showed that there did not appear to be any special metabolic effect of sugars making people more likely to gain weight on high-sugar diets compared with low sugar diets when the total amount of carbohydrates and energy remains the same.

"However our latest study did find significant effects of sugars on lipids and blood pressure among these types of energy-controlled studies. This suggests that our bodies handle sugar differently to other types of carbohydrates."

"We were also relatively surprised that there was a positive association between sugars and cardiometabolic risk factors given that a large body of the research which met our inclusion criteria is funded by the food industry. This is because such trials are less likely to find a significant association between sugars and health outcomes.

"In subgroup analyses we showed that by excluding the trials funded by the food/sugar industry, we found larger effects of sugar on lipids and blood pressure."

She adds that the release of their findings online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is very timely as national and international organisations are considering recommendations on safe dietary sugar intakes.

"Our work provides further evidence to support these recommendations which have been disputed by the food industry," she says.

While there is still a need for further longer term well-powered studies looking at the effects of sugars on various health outcomes, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the food industry to continue to claim that liberal sugar consumption is risk free.

Dr Te Morenga says that anti-sugar researchers have claimed that eating too much sugar causes numerous harms, including cardiovascular risk.

"But their evidence has been based largely on animal studies or highly controlled clinical trials involving unrealistic diets. However, until now the evidence relating to cardiovascular risk factors from sugar in human studies, and involving relatively normal diets, was hard to make sense of."

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Early menopause ups heart failure risk, especially for smokers

Women who go through menopause early—at ages 40 to 45—have a higher rate of heart failure, according to a new study published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS). Smoking, current or past, raises the rate even more.

Research already pointed to a relationship between early menopause and heart disease—usually atherosclerotic heart disease. But this study from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, is the first to demonstrate a link with heart failure, the inability of the heart to pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. It is also the first large-scale (including more than 22,000 postmenopausal women) and long-term study linking early menopause and heart disease—made possible by the Swedish National Patient Register, which captures nearly all Sweden's hospitalization and outpatient diagnoses; Sweden's Cause of Death Register; and health surveys of some 90,000 women in the Swedish Mammography Cohort.

The authors' analysis of the data showed that women who went through menopause naturally at this early age had a rate of heart failure some 40% higher than women who went through menopause the usual age between 50 and 54. (The average is 51.) And for every one-year increase in age at menopause, the rate of heart failure was 2% lower.

Smokers are known to go through menopause an average of one year earlier than nonsmokers, but that didn't entirely explain the early menopause-heart failure connection, since women who had smoked earlier in their lives and quit also had an increased rate of heart failure with early menopause. What's more, women who smoked, even if they had quit earlier, had a higher risk of heart failure if they went through menopause only somewhat early—at ages 46 to 49.


"Menopause, early or late, is always a good time to take more steps to reduce heart disease risk through exercise, a healthy diet, weight loss, and quitting smoking, says NAMS Executive Director Margery Gass, MD. "This thought-provoking study should encourage more research to find out how early menopause and heart failure are linked. Do the factors that cause heart failure also cause ovarian failure?"



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Healthy Vegetables Undermined by the Company They Keep


Collage of potato and tomato foods

Highlights:

  • Vegetables—naturally low in calories and sodium and high in dietary fiber—are mostly eaten by Americans in prepared forms that alter their nutrient profile.
  • Holding constant the total amount of food consumed, eating more vegetables in the forms currently favored by Americans would add calories and sodium.
  • Reformulation of processed foods, improved labeling of packaged foods, and menu labeling of food prepared away from home may help Americans make more nutritious vegetable choices.
As the U.S. Government prepares to issue updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2015, the question of how best to encourage Americans to eat a nutritious diet for a healthy weight is once again under discussion. Vitamin- and mineral-packed vegetables are naturally low-calorie, low-sodium, high-dietary-fiber foods, so it seems logical that eating more of them would be a good way to improve diets, reduce overall sodium intake, and control weight. Yet, research linking fruit and vegetable consumption to body weight has been inconclusive. Therefore, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the U.S. Government’s consensus statement of nutrition policy, made only a qualified statement that fruits and vegetables may be a useful part of an overall approach to achieving and/or maintaining a healthy weight.

An analysis of American diets suggests that the answer is in the processing and preparation of our favorite vegetable-containing foods. Earlier USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) research found fruit consumption to be linked to healthier weight status, but for vegetable consumption there was no such link. The researchers speculated that the issue might be how the vegetables are prepared. Unlike naturally sweet fruit, American may find vegetables more palatable if prepared with added fats or oils, such as in fried potatoes or creamed spinach, or in a mixed dish like pizza.

More recently, ERS researchers returned to this question, examining in more detail the types of vegetables and vegetable-containing foods eaten by Americans. As hypothesized, they found that instead of eating vegetables in their simple, unadorned state, Americans often eat vegetables prepared in ways that add calories and sodium. They also tend to eat vegetables in forms that remove dietary fiber.

Eating More Fruit Found To Be Associated with Lower Weight—But Not Eating More Vegetables

In 2002, ERS researchers used data from USDA’s Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals (CSFII) 1994-96 to investigate the relationship of fruit and vegetable consumption and weight status among children 5 to 18 years of age and adults. This survey collected data from a nationally representative sample of Americans on everything they ate and the amount consumed over 2 nonconsecutive days. Survey respondents were also asked to report their height and weight, and this information was used to compute their body mass index (BMI), a measure of overweight and obesity. Parents or guardians reported dietary and height and weight information for children less than 13 years of age.

The number of servings of fruits and vegetables each survey respondent consumed was calculated using the USDA’s Pyramid Servings Database. This database identifies the fruit and vegetable component of each food, whether a simple item like an apple or carrot sticks, or a combination food like a vegetable soup or a fruit pie, and converts it into the appropriate number of servings by food group. This allows all the forms in which fruits and vegetables are consumed—as solid, single items; as juices; or as part of combination foods—to be aggregated into a measure of the total number of servings consumed.

The researchers found that, on average, healthy weight children and adults ate more fruit than their overweight peers. After conducting a more complex analysis that controlled for personal characteristics that could affect weight, including age, gender, and race, they found consistent results.

Higher fruit consumption was associated with lower BMI for adult men and women and for adolescent girls and boys 10 years of age and above.

Total vegetable consumption had no association with body weight. When vegetables were separated into two groups—white potatoes only, and all other vegetables—white potato intake was associated with higher BMI for both adult men and women. Intake of vegetables other than potatoes was associated with lower BMI among women but not among any other age-sex groups.

Researchers hypothesized that vegetables might not be as low-calorie as fruit because they are often eaten in ways that add calories. While 100 grams of a plain baked potato, eaten with skin contains 97 calories, 100 grams of French fries from a fast food restaurant typically contains 312 calories, according to USDA nutrient data. Other vegetables might also be frequently prepared in forms that add calories, explaining the lack of association with healthy weight.

Vegetables Are Frequently Eaten in Forms That Add Fat and Sodium

The hypothesis that Americans might be eating vegetables most often in forms that add calories and fat was explored in a second study by ERS researchers. Researchers used nationally representative dietary data from the 2003-04 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). NHANES interviewers collected dietary information using methods very similar to the CSFII. As before, participants reported everything they ate and the amount consumed over a 24-hour period, and the interview was repeated on a second, nonconsecutive day, providing 2 days of dietary intake data for each participant. USDA nutrient data were used to estimate the calorie and nutrient content of every food item consumed. The USDA MyPyramid Equivalents Database (MPED) 2.0 was constructed for use with the 2003-04 NHANES and used to identify the vegetable content of each food, such as soups, stews, juices, and sauces. At the time the study was conducted, a database to identify vegetable content of foods was not available for NHANES data newer than 2004. However, eating patterns observed in 2003-04 are likely to be similar to those today since food preferences and eating habits change slowly.

ERS researchers aggregated individual vegetable consumption from all sources—plain raw or cooked vegetables; vegetables from mixed dishes such as soups, stews and pastas; juices; sauces; etc.—and generated overall estimates of cups of vegetables consumed. Because Americans often make quite different choices when eating out, they examined vegetable consumption patterns for food prepared at home versus those for food prepared away from home. They separated foods by where prepared, so a sandwich made at home and taken to work for a brown-bag lunch would be considered a home-prepared food, whereas a pizza taken home from a restaurant would be considered as prepared away from home. They examined the effects of the types of vegetables consumed on intake of calories, sodium, and dietary fiber.

Researchers found that on average, Americans ate 1.5 cups of vegetables daily, about 50-60 percent of the 2-3 cups recommended for adults and older children. More than half of vegetable intake came from potatoes and tomatoes (51 percent), whereas only 10 percent came from dark green and orange vegetables. Some vegetables were eaten in their unadorned state—raw carrot sticks or sliced tomatoes—but most were consumed in prepared forms or as part of mixed dishes.


Potatoes, as had been hypothesized, were typically consumed in forms that added fat. At home, potato chips were the most commonly eaten form, whereas away from home, fried potatoes predominated. Other potato dishes, such as mashed and scalloped potatoes, are often prepared with added fats and sodium. Baked potatoes were popular, but most commonly—especially when eating out—the skin was not eaten, reducing dietary fiber content.


The predominance of fried potatoes was expected, but the results for tomatoes, the second-most consumed vegetable by Americans, may be more surprising. Although popular raw, most tomato is consumed as an ingredient in popular mixed foods, such as pastas and pizzas. To illustrate, when the researchers examined the leading sources of tomato consumed, they found that at home, raw tomato accounted for 22 percent of tomato consumption, while 24 percent came from tomato sauces for spaghetti and similar pastas. Among foods prepared away from home, pizza provided the largest share of tomato consumed, at 32 percent, followed by raw tomato at 17 percent, and spaghetti and similar pastas with tomato sauce at 15 percent.


The Dietary Guidelines recommend that Americans should lower their sodium intakes from the current average of approximately 3,400 mg daily to no more than 2,300 mg/day. Although tomatoes are naturally low in sodium, many of the tomato sauces featured in mixed dishes are high in sodium. While a cup of raw tomato has only 9 mg of sodium, according to the most recent USDA nutrient data canned tomato sauce typically contains more than 1,000 mg of sodium per cup.

Adding More American-Style Vegetables Can Increase Calories and Sodium

Having found that so much of Americans’ vegetable consumption is obtained in forms that add fat or sodium and reduce dietary fiber, ERS researchers analyzed the effect of adding more vegetables—in forms currently consumed by Americans—to the diet on calorie intake, sodium density (mg/1,000 kcal), and dietary fiber density (g/1,000 kcal). Researchers held the total amount of food consumed as measured in weight (grams) constant; as more vegetables were eaten, the amount of other foods consumed was lowered. For the analysis, they examined four categories of vegetables: potatoes, tomatoes, dark green and orange vegetables, and all other vegetables. Researchers estimated the effects of adding more vegetables and vegetable-containing foods to the diet using a method that controls for individual differences that may affect food intake such as age, gender, and personal tastes and preferences.

Contradicting what might have been expected from a shift to a higher vegetable diet, researchers found that calorie intake increased, with effects varying by type of vegetable and where the food was prepared. Eating an additional cup of potatoes in the forms prepared at home resulted in an increase of 88 calories, whereas eating an additional cup of potatoes prepared away from home increased calorie intake almost twice as much. This reflects the predominance of fried potatoes when eating out.

For tomatoes, the difference in the calorie increase from foods prepared at home versus away from home was even larger. An additional cup of tomatoes from home foods increased calories by 59 versus a 364-calorie increase from away-from-home foods. This may be attributable to the popularity of calorie-laden combination foods like pizza as a tomato source. According to USDA’s MyPlate guidance, a piece of pepperoni pizza provides ¼ cup of vegetable, but also contains approximately 400 calories, making it a high-calorie source of vegetables.

Whether at home or away, increasing tomato consumption resulted in a more sodium-dense diet, likely reflecting the sodium content of tomato-sauce dishes that make up the bulk of tomato consumption. Eating more potatoes, whether at home or away, decreased sodium. Increasing dark green and orange vegetable intake of foods prepared at home by 1 cup reduced sodium density by 56 milligrams. But away-from-home foods containing dark green and orange vegetables had the opposite effect, increasing sodium by 186 milligrams per cup consumed. Both at home and away, raw carrots and greens are popular choices, but among the leading away-from-home choices are also dishes that include dark green and orange vegetables cooked with soy sauce, spinach dips, and other higher sodium items.
Effects of eating more vegetable-rich foods can vary, depending on type of vegetable and where prepared
 Effects of increasing intake of each type of vegetable by 1 cup, holding total amount of food consumed constant
 PotatoesTomatoesDark green
and orange vegetables
Other vegetables
Where prepared At home Away At home Away At home Away At home Away
Calories 88 159 59 364 80 NS NS NS
Sodium (mg) -52 -76 179 113 -56 186 75 91
Dietary fiber (g) 0.30 NS 0.86 NS 1.38 1.07 1.14 0.49
Note:  Effects on nutrient intake are attributable to consumption of vegetable-containing foods, including other non-vegetable ingredients. For example, potatoes may be fried with oil and have added salt; tomatoes may be consumed as a sauce on pasta or pizza.
NS= not significant.
Source: USDA, Economic Research Service analysis using data from the 2003-04 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Increasing Dark Green and Orange Vegetables Boosted Dietary Fiber

Dietary fiber is provided by nondigestable carbohydrates and related compounds in the foods we eat. Its bulk promotes a feeling of fullness, which may help control calorie intake, and it promotes healthy digestion. Vegetables, along with fruits and whole grains, are naturally rich sources of dietary fiber. However, fiber is often removed from vegetables by peeling, removing seeds, or extracting juice.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 14 grams of dietary fiber per 1,000 calories consumed, which would be equivalent to about 28 grams per day for a 2,000 calorie diet. On average, Americans consume about 15 grams of dietary fiber daily, far less than recommended. The Dietary Guidelines state that these low intakes constitute a public health concern. Adding more potatoes and tomatoes from food prepared away from home would not significantly increase dietary fiber, probably because of losses during preparation or because individuals choose not to eat the skins on potatoes.
Eating more tomatoes and potatoes as prepared at home would boost dietary fiber, but not as much as increasing dark green and orange vegetables would. Consumption of an additional cup of dark green and orange vegetables as prepared at home would increase fiber by 1.38 grams, whereas an additional cup as prepared away from home would result in a 1.07-gram increase. Increased consumption of other vegetables was also associated with increased fiber intake, particularly the home-prepared versions, which added 1.14 grams of dietary fiber per cup.

Public-Private Efforts May Promote Healthier Vegetable Choices

When considering how increased vegetable consumption can support efforts to prevent obesity and reduce sodium intake, thinking about the typical forms in which Americans eat vegetables is important. Rather than simply eating more of their current favorite forms of vegetable-containing foods, Americans will need to add vegetables in forms that come with fewer added calories and sodium.

Combination foods such as pizzas and pastas may seem like a tasty and convenient way to add vegetables to the diet, and the vegetables in those foods do make nutritional contributions. For example, tomato sauce contains vitamins A and C and potassium. However, consumers need to be aware that along with the vegetable content of combination foods may come calories and sodium from the other parts of the dish. The presence of vegetables in a mixed food like heavily sauced pasta may lend a “health halo” to the dish in the minds of many consumers—that is, consumers may have an overly positive impression of the healthfulness of the dish based on considering only its healthy attributes. This may be most likely when eating out, since consumers may not know all the ingredients in an item. Calorie labeling will soon be required in American restaurant chains of 20 or more establishments. Such labeling may help consumers make healthier choices when eating out and create incentives for restaurants to offer more nutritious items.

Most sodium consumed by Americans is not added at the table from the salt shaker, but rather comes from processed items such as tomato sauce and canned soups. For this reason, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans emphasized the importance of reducing the sodium content of packaged foods. Many food companies have made efforts to reduce the sodium content of their foods, encouraged by public-private efforts such as the National Salt Reduction Initiative. This initiative set voluntary goals for sodium reduction in packaged and restaurant foods. In 2013, the Initiative reported that 21 companies had made changes that met one or more of its goals. Nevertheless, changes are uneven.

A recent report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest assessed changes in sodium content of 480 food products between 2005 and 2011. Of that group, sodium content had declined in 205 products, but it increased in 158. Sodium content of similar products varied considerably—for example one brand of tomato paste contained five times the amount of sodium as another brand. Unless consumers check the nutrition label and choose the lower sodium options, they may not consistently benefit from the improved products available.




Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration permits front-of-label claims for low sodium products that could assist consumers to identify these products, some food companies may not choose to make these claims. They assert that consumers associate “low salt” claims with poor-tasting foods, making it difficult to successfully market lower sodium products. Instead, these food companies practice what has been called “stealth health,” reducing the sodium content of the item but not publicizing the change with front-of-label claims.

A report from the Institute of Medicine stated that successfully marketing lower sodium products has been difficult for food companies. Consumers who are used to larger amounts of added salt may find it hard to accept lower salt versions of their favorite foods. New USDA school meal standards call for a gradual reduction in the sodium content of meals. This may help the younger generation grow up with more acceptance of a lower sodium diet.

Aspirin helps prevent heart attacks and strokes



For over 30 years, aspirin has been known to prevent heart attacks and strokes, but who exactly should take a daily aspirin remains unclear. New research published today in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes shows that your coronary artery calcium (CAC) score, a measurement of plaque in the arteries that feed the heart, may help determine whether or not you are a good candidate for aspirin.

“Many heart attacks and strokes occur in individuals who do not appear to be at high risk,” states lead author, Michael D Miedema, MD, MPH. “Individuals with known CVD [cardiovascular disease] should take a daily aspirin, but the best approach for individuals without known CVD is unclear. If we only treat high-risk individuals with aspirin, we are going to miss a substantial portion of patients who eventually suffer heart attacks. However, liberally prescribing aspirin increases the bleeding risk for a significant number of people who were never going to have a heart attack in the first place. With this study, we wanted to see if there is potentially a better way to determine who to treat with aspirin beyond simply using traditional risk factors.”

Aspirin helps prevent heart attacks and strokes by preventing blood clots from forming in arteries lined with unhealthy plaque buildup. However, this same benefit puts patients taking aspirin at risk for dangerous bleeding, when blood clots don’t form where they should. For that reason, the American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines currently recommend aspirin to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD) in people who have known CVD or who are considered to be at high risk for a CVD event. Aspirin is generally not recommended for people who are considered to be at low or intermediate risk.
In this retrospective study, researchers studied 4,229 participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) from six centers across the country. Participants included had no known CVD or diabetes, were not on aspirin therapy, and were followed for approximately 7 years.

Participants were grouped according to their CAC score and the rates of heart attacks in each group were calculated. Based on these rates, the research team weighed the likelihood of an individual to benefit from aspirin therapy (the potential of the aspirin to prevent a heart attack) against the likelihood of harm (the potential for the aspirin to cause major bleeding). They estimated that participants with elevated CAC scores (>100) were 2−4 times more likely to benefit from aspirin therapy than to be harmed, even if they did not qualify for aspirin use according to current AHA guidelines. Conversely, MESA participants with no calcified plaque (CAC score = 0) were 2−4 times more likely to be harmed by aspirin use than to benefit. The results in both groups held true even after accounting for traditional risk factors.

“We estimate that individuals with significant plaque buildup in the arteries of the heart are much more likely to prevent a heart attack with aspirin use than to suffer a significant bleed” explains Miedema. “On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you don’t have any calcified plaque, our estimations indicate that use of aspirin would result in more harm than good, even if you have risk factors for heart disease such as high cholesterol or a family history of the disease.”

Miedema added, “A CAC score of zero is associated with a very low risk of having a heart attack. That means individuals with a score of zero may not benefit from preventive medications, such as aspirin as well as the cholesterol-lowering statin medications. Approximately 50% of middle-aged men and women have a CAC score of zero, so there is a potential for this test to personalize the approach to prevention and allow a significant number of patients to avoid preventive medications, but we need further research to verify that routine use of this test is the best option for our patients.”